Saturday, April 19, 2014

No More Bypassing the Bypass: Hiking at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

Date: July, 2013
Place: Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, West Sacramento, California
Coordinates: 38.563261, -121.636255
Link to map, at the Yolo Basin Foundation site. We parked at stop B and hiked around the ponds. Length of our trail: about 1.5 miles.
Difficulty: easy

The Yolo Bypass has been bypassed by us so many times on our way to and from Sacramento. We've seen the roadside sign. We knew it was there. We had the interest. It's just that ... Well, no good excuses here. Finally, last summer, we made the plan, picked up my sister K at West Sacramento, and  drove to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area.
Still flooded in July
We were the only people there. It was very peaceful. Would have been quiet too except for I-80 so close (and for two very chatty chikas in company).
So close, yet seems out of place: California's capital's skyline. 
I didn't expect to see many flowers there, and indeed, only a few species were blooming. But those few were all around. This one in particular:
Toothpickweed (Ammi visnaga), non-native
I was mesmerized by theses huge inflorescences, many of which were encased in silk shrouds and crawling with armies of tiny red bugs that I didn't identify (yet). I liked the intricate look of the mature inflorescence that has gone to seeds.
Toothpickweed (Ammi visnaga), non-native
It was hot and sunny, and the trail side was decorated with little sunshines of its own:
Common Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
The low yield of flowers was expected at this time of year. Out main goal was to see birds. Of these, there were plenty,
White-faced Ibis
both above:
Caspian Tern

And below:
Western Meadowlark

Park of the area is cultivated. Rice is a crop compatible with wetland wildlife.
A growing rice field at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
And when the field is empty, the flooded mud attracts shore birds.

They aren't very conspicuous, these little guys. So here's a close-up:
Western Sandpiper
The water in the fields is manages through an array of canals. These too are home for birds, most commonly, egrets.

During hunting season (fall), much of the area is closed for hiking. There are lists of how many water fowl are hunted there during the season. When we were there the ponds were largely empty. Nothing but a few mallards here and there. Great for reflection photography, though ...

Tule and cattail are the habitat of many little birds that are mostly being heard rather than seen. Occasionally, though, we got lucky.
American Goldfinch, male
And not always just with birds.
White Cabbage Butterfly
Common, but pretty nonetheless: the ever-present cowbird. Even without the cows.
Brown-headed Cowbird, male
We took out time walking around the ponds, enjoying the company and the discovery of a new place. After the walk we did on of the auto tours to explore some more. The potential of this place in terms of wildlife viewing is huge, we were simply visiting during summer, which is the slow season there. There's less water and much fewer birds. And it is very hot, too. In fact, I was slow to write this post because I was hoping to return for another visit this winter, which didn't happen. Still, we had a very nice walk around the ponds there, and we did see quite a few summer birds. And even some flowers. All and all, it was a very enjoyable summer hike.
Swainson's Hawk


  1. very nice...except for the hunting season

    1. Thank you, and yes. Interesting, though, that whatever wetlands and wildlife refuges that survived the agricultural conquest of the Valley, has survived because of hunting clubs that wanted areas for wild game. Interesting how these things work.

  2. very nice :-)
    you should crop some of the pictures - for example, the sandpipers picture - so we can see them better :-)

    1. Thanks, I often do, but in this photo I wanted the surroundings as well. Always a consideration how to edit the photos.